I did my M.A in philosophy in east Asia, which is more of a Confucian Tradition. When I was interviewed for admission, one of the Confucian professors said that girls are simply not fit for higher education. When I took a Confucian course taught by another professor, I heard him say something like “the contribution females can make to philosophy is to become a supportive wife of a great philosopher.”
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I am a female student of philosophy at a German University, writing my master thesis. Over the last years I became more and more aware of male dominance in society in general and in philosophy in particular and this makes it harder for me to bear more and more meetings, seminars, talks, conferences, colloquia etc.
I try to change the situation at our Institute: I talk to my fellow students (male and female alike), organize workshops on women* in philosophy and power structures in seminars, but it won`t change anything.
Now the semester began and I hear man talking, hear man fighting, see man sitting where women should sit and talk and many even fight as well. These man are nice or ok as individuals, but unbearable in groups, because they don`t want to know. They don`t want to know about their priviliges, there status, their society-given right to be wherever they want to be and to say whatever they want to say without being questioned their right to speak at all. And therefore they don`t care.
Their only way to connect to critique of male-oriented behaviour is by re-recognizing situations, for example then they can say: But I am nervous by speaking out loud just as you are! NO! This is not the same! You do not get discriminated because of your gender!
I do love philosophy, I want to do a ph.d., but I really don`t know if I can stand these male environment for a couple of years more. It makes me angry, sad and sick of after each meeting. It preoccupies my mind, keeps me away from work, makes me questioned, if this is worth it.
And in case male readers may wonder: I am nonetheless quite good in what I am doing.
A few years ago, I was working with one of my professors to prepare a co-authored paper for publication. This professor was keen on having our meetings over lunch. I didn’t really approve, and I tried several times to convince the professor to have our meetings over coffee, without much success. I was told, however, that there’s nothing wrong with this, unless it turns out that there is. So, I continued to go to lunch with this professor and we talked about the paper, but I always felt uncomfortable (we probably went about 10 times in total).
This story, however, is not about the professor — nothing untoward happened. It’s about one of my fellow students, at the time. One day, this student found himself in the same venue as the professor and me, during lunchtime. We said ‘hello’ and then processed with business as usual. My fellow student was otherwise engaged, so he didn’t sit with us.
Later in the day, when people were gathering for a talk, and while only students were in the room, this fellow student asks me, loud and clear:
X, does your husband know you’re meeting with professor Y over lunch?
I started saying that I resent the implication, although not the one he’s clearly making. And that I won’t dignify such a question with an answer. To which, my fellow student said something to the effect that he made a joke and that I don’t have a sense of humor.
No one else said anything, although other students were holding their breaths to see if this will become a quarrel.
I left the table, went back to a corner and tried hard to focus on the talk.
Cross-posted from Feminist Philosophers.
Over the last few years, the the philosophical community has begun to take public notice of sexual harassment and abuse in our profession. On the whole, this is A Good Thing: It’s hard to address as a profession a problem we pretend doesn’t exist.
But, as is so often the case when the topic of the abuse of women is raised, not all of these discussions have been constructive. There has been a lot of skeptical speculation: “The allegations can’t be true because Professor is clever, well-educated—he’s too smart to put himself at risk”, “they can’t be true because he’s too good-looking, too well-situated in life. Why would he harass someone, rape someone? He must meet loads of interested women”, “the alleged victim has a boyfriend, a husband—she’s lying to cover up a consensual relationship”, “she’s probably just mad he dumped her”, “the alleged victim didn’t complain to the university right away, didn’t call the police—a real victim would never do that”, “I know Professor; he’s a good guy. He would never do a thing like that; if he had, I would have known, there would have been some sign”, and on, and on.
Listening to these discussions, online, on the various blogs and on facebook, at conferences and other professional/social events, I often find myself wondering what impression such speculation makes on victims, who are there among us, whether we know it or not. My speculation, though, isn’t entirely idle. You see, I am a professional philosopher, a senior woman. And when I was in grad school, I was raped by another philosopher.
For the survivors:
The single, most important thing for you to know is it gets better. I remember quite well the aftermath; the feeling of unreality, as if you aren’t quite fully connected to your body. And the feeling of incredible fragility, as if brushing up against another object would cause you to shatter into small pieces. I remember the confusion, the unwillingness to accept that this is something that really happened to you because….well, how could that happen to you? How could another human being do this to you, torture you for his sexual pleasure? And the months of brain fog, the insomnia, the sudden bouts of paralyzing anxiety. The bizarre feeling of deep shame that makes no sense. I remember.
It seems like it will never end. But I promise you, I PROMISE you, it gets better. The fog will lift. You will think again. And, if you choose, you will be a philosopher again. I count myself as a moderately successful philosopher; I am in a research-oriented department; I love my colleagues; they are generous and kind. And I love what I do; I love my students and I love my work. And there are many others out there just like me. We’re aren’t particularly heroic, we don’t have special abilities, we don’t have super strength. But we made it through this. Victims can make it through this.
In saying this, that recovery is absolutely possible, I do not mean to suggest that it is easy. Getting better can be hard work, work that is made a lot easier with the help of supportive friends and professionals. If you continue to have trouble with anxiety, depression, or insomnia, please seek the help of a professional who is trained to help survivors. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN, https://rainn.org/get-help/help-a-loved-one ) is a good place to start. Please, please take care of yourself.
For the speculators:
Gossip can be fun. I get that. I imagine a few folks in our profession enjoy gossip regardless of its consequences. But I’m betting most folks aren’t like this. Most of us, I imagine, would most like to put an end to the victimization of women in our discipline. And I bet most of us recognize that part of what is required to make that happen is for victims to come forward.
So, let me tell you what a rehearsal of the near-platitudes of dismissal I mentioned above sound like to survivors who are standing right there, I promise you, when you utter them or stand there quietly when you hear someone else do so. The translation is: “I very much doubt these allegations, despite the fact that I am not acquainted with the parties at all, don’t know the particulars, and don’t even have any idea who the complainant is. Nonetheless, I do not believe her.” When you do this, you make it rational for victims to hide. You want to know why a victim didn’t complain to the university, didn’t go to the police, or didn’t go right away? Review these conversations in your head and you have your answer. You, when you casually dismiss serious allegations or when you stand there silently while others do, demonstrate the pointlessness of speaking out. You are the reason victims do not advocate for themselves.
It is within our power to fix this problem. But we need to stand up, speak up. I hope that now you know, you do.
As an undergrad in a program where there is a lot of interaction with grad students, I have a number of frustrations with the attitude of the male grad students. At this point it is just another thing keeping me from finishing my degree and moving on in the field. I find that I don’t stand up for myself and if I keep finding excuses for other people then I wont be able to hold my own convictions or justify my own ideas.
In the past I, along with many of my other woman colleagues had problems with a particular male grad student. He is incredibly lecherous. But smart enough not to get into any trouble. While he is not “dangerous” it is very disrespectful and discouraging if you find that the people that you should in a sense look up to as mentors as well as fellow students are interested in you in so far as you are a potential sexual conquest.
I was actually able to call this person out for “booty calling me” by telling him that he is everything that is wrong with philosophy and he did eventually apologize. Although he had the gall to suggest that his behavior had nothing to do with the fact that I am no longer involved in the philosophy department.
But is still sucks that he thought that it was appropriate to treat me like that. Especially because he does consider himself a feminist and he is given a lot of intellectual credit for that title by faculty and students alike.
I also had problems with another male grad student who as a self proclaimed feminist would sarcastically interrupt me and show physical signs of annoyance whenever I had anything to say which was counter to any of his claims. Many of which as more than subtly misogynist.
I feel like I finally have “rational grounds” to complain about him because he accidentally messaged me to ” shut the fuck up”.
This was a response to some comments that I made to something that he posted on facebook. All the while publicly continuing the conversation suggesting that I had nothing to add. Clearly, pretending to listen and take into account people who disagree with you confirms your status as a progressive or a radical. The level of hypocrite that one has to be to silence their opponent so that they can publicly look justified in a view boggles my mind.
At first glance, when I am being hard on myself, these sound like small personal issues. The fact that the examples that I gave took place via text and on facebook makes them easy to dismiss as personal issues that have nothing to do with philosophy.
It is also easy to argue that I was somehow soliciting that treatment. Why do those men have my cell phone number and why are they connected to me on facebook? Because these are men I should be able to trust and respect as allies. It is also difficult to do philosophy if you can’t participate freely in social life.
It it is also difficult because these men claim to be allies and are, I think, well respected by their peers as radical and progressive.
I have more stories about these individuals. (There are actually a ton of inside jokes among me and many of my friends about the first grad student I described and the
things that he thought it was appropriate to say and do. Humor works great up to a point in order to cope. But I don’t have the energy to find humor in this kind of thing anymore.
I also know that there are other people that women close to me had problems with. But I can’t speak for them.
This does not feel entirely coherent. There are lots of small things that feel easy to put up with. It is scary to realize that those are the things keeping you from where you want to be and keeping everyone else where they feel entitled to be.
I am a Ph.D. student in philosophy. My research interests are in a subfield that is mostly male dominated. In the graduate seminars I am enrolled in, I am the only woman student. This week I e-mailed a classmate a paper I had found online, that look interesting and was related to my research, but that I knew was also related to his. I wrote that he hoped he would find it helpful. The next day he thanked me for the paper. I told him I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet, but would like to talk about it in the next few days.
Later that afternoon I found out he had sent out a draft of a paper he was working on that was a response to some of our other peers. All male, and all of whose research interests were less relevant than mine. I can’t help feeling hurt. Similar things (not being sent drafts of papers being circulated to other students) have happened in the past, and I was able to brush it off. But this is the first time it has been a paper that a) would not have been written (at least not as soon) if it weren’t for my input, and b) is directly related to my research. The climate in my department is quite amiable, but because we are friends I don’t want to confront him about why he didn’t think to send me a draft. I don’t want to be labeled as overly sensitive, I can’t help but feel like this is because he believes that I will not have anything relevant to say, despite the fact it is on a topic directly related to my research.
I’m scared. I’ve been told by many that one of the best things about graduate school is having peers willing to discuss topics you are interested in, and I feel like I am missing out. I am also worried that without this, I will not do as well in my studies as others.
After graduating from undergraduate in a very big US city, I slept with my mentor and philosophy professor. He confessed to me that he had done this to dozens of times in his years as a professor, luring girls in his undergraduate classes to bars for drinks and conversation and eventually moving the conversation to hotel rooms. (I tried to think of a more value-neutral word here than “luring,” but that truly describes it. He planned out the drinks date weeks in advance and had a hotel room booked the night of, just in case.) He openly bragged about this to me, mentioning that the youngest student he had slept with was 19, but made me swear to absolute secrecy. He also insisted that it was consensual in all cases and that he rarely did this with students who were still enrolled with him. My case was consensual but now that I’ve had successful relationships, I realize the strange and unequal power dynamic that resulted in that night happening. Tonight I told my partner of 5 years about it for the first time. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It is also hard to think about all of the girls who are still in his classes, that he still looks to prey on. I realize now that although my case felt different at the time, this professor is systematically preying on young women. I am immensely guilty and feel complicit in my silence, but am in the field of philosophy now and fear for my career if I were to speak up.